EO Stories competition winners announced at EOA Annual Conference 2021

The EO Stories competition has crowned six winners at the EOA Annual Conference 2021, where the more than 500 delegates has heard from companies such as Go Ape on their transition to an employee ownership model.

EO Stories, delivered in partnership with Baxendale, is a celebration of the exceptional stories of employee-owned (EO) businesses and the challenges they have faced over the last year.

Thousands of votes were cast by the EO community for their favourites this summer as part of the Employee Ownership Association’s (EOA) EO Stories competition, which received 35 insightful and inspiring stories across four categories. There were also two special prizes, the Partner’s Pick and President’s Pick.

Here are the 2021 winners:

Celebrating a True EO Champion – Godric Bader of Scott Bader

This year marks 100 years of Scott Bader Company Limited, global manufacturer of adhesives, resins, gelcoats and functional polymers based in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, and with offices across the world, and 70 years of the Scott Bader Commonwealth Limited, the guiding principles of which Godric was fundamental in establishing with his father Ernest. Their work saw Scott Bader be the first company to hold a Common Ownership Certificate, a trailblazer of this new type of business model with employee ownership at its heart.

CEO Kevin Matthews passed on the award to Godric. Kevin said: “It’s fantastic news. I think particularly for Godric, he’s invested his entire life in employee ownership. He was instrumental in the company becoming global, so we are globally employee owned. The enduring nature of that legacy is there, palpable and clear to see in terms of our reputation in the industry, but also our reputation as an employee-owned organisation.”

Promoting Employee Wellbeing – Seetec

Seetec, which has its head office in Hockley, Essex, and delivers employment, skills and rehabilitation services, won. The story of its 18 EO Champions running a health and wellbeing working group to find solutions to help the different challenges its employee owners and their households were experiencing during 2020 saw its employee wellbeing score increase by 12% to 77%.

Ann-Marie Conway, Associate Director at Seetec, said: “Our colleagues, and the employee champions in particular, put so much work into thinking about wellbeing for their colleagues and really turning around some initiatives very quickly. Over the course of the pandemic, our people put a lot of effort into listening to each other and what the particular needs were. Those champions worked really well together to come up with some ideas about how people could best be supported, so it’s really great to see that realised and for us to be recognised with this award.”

Delivering Good Governance and Engagement – Community Dental Services (CDS) CIC

CDS CIC, which has locations across the country and a base in Bedfordshire, and which promotes good dental health and runs a referral only dental service, won with its story of the race to understand Covid guidance, implement new systems and processes, set up urgent care dental clinics, all the while making sure they kept patients and employees safe.

Helen Paisley, COO at CDS, said: “The whole team are really delighted. Our organisation treats some of the most vulnerable people in the community. We pro-actively said, ‘right, we will provide urgent dental care’, but not only that, what came with that brief was providing care for anybody in the population who would be Covid positive, because we knew that our most vulnerable patients were going to struggle unless we saw them.”

Developing Business Resilience – The National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC)

NSBRC, from Swindon, which has 17 employees, knew great flexibility and change was needed when Covid restrictions hit. It had to find new ways to protect income and provide value to exhibitors and visitors from their kitchen tables or hastily made home offices.

Harvey Fremlin, Managing Director, said: “The award means so much to all the team. It has been such a journey and there have been so many ups and downs, but I think being employee-owned has just made the difference. The culture we had in our team gave us that in-built resilience with us to begin with. The key to business resilience has been all about open and transparent communication.”

Partner’s Pick – Tomlinson

Partners Baxendale picked Tomlinson as it told a story of business resilience that was summarised well in three words: crisis, culture and cohesion. Leicester foiling and embossing die-maker Tomlinson has been employee owned for four years. As Covid hit, silence fell in the factory but the team worked together on thoughts and ideas of how they could get back to work, with all 24 of them determined to do what was needed to make the work environment safe.

Director Jim Little said: “We are delighted to receive this award. Back in March last year, when Covid hit, it was obviously a bleak future for everybody, none of us really knew what the future would hold. After talking to all of our team, we closed the building and got the safety measures in place ready to come back. Since Covid has gone along and the economy has opened back up, Tomlinson is really flying, we feel the time allowed us to create our online presence in a better way.”

President’s Pick – Claremont Group Interiors

EOA President Patrick Lewis picked Claremont Group Interiors as the winner, which became employee-owned in late 2020. Claremont Group Interiors is a longstanding workplace design and build agency with headquarters in Warrington and a second office in Bristol. The 90 employees had everything put to the test during the pandemic, when different parts of their work were paused. It was felt the pandemic helped build its employee ownership culture a lot faster, which it felt helped it rise to the challenges faced as a business together.

Tim Frankland, Managing Director, said: “I can’t tell you how proud and pleased I am. It’s been a really tough time for everybody and we’ve been really mindful of keeping the team motivated, happy and keeping communicating with them. For us, the whole idea of resilience is you look after your people because that means they’re looking after your clients; you look after your clients and they’ll keep on coming back.”

The EO Stories winners were announced on Day Two of the virtual EOA Annual Conference 2021, the sessions from which are available on demand for 60 days after the event. To find out more or to register, click here >>